Just because Marco Pierre White has proverbially thrown his toys out of the kitchen pan on odd occasion, he's a name you simply can't fault on the UK steakhouse and dining scene. Cosying up to his Islington restaurant, we headed doubled on down to the DoubleTree to try his North London space on for size.
The DoubleTree is by all intents and purposes a bonny hotel; it's the kind of hotel notoriously booked for wedding guests, special occasions and those whose bank balances warrant it, meaning that Marco Pierre White is a restaurant that slides in with stride. Found on the ground level of the building, Marco Pierre White's space is luxe from the off. The sign of dining luxury? Its smattering of white table-cloths and the sound of wine glasses chinking. Spread in and amongst booths and candlelit tables, enigmatic lampshades add a contemporary edge to a space that clearly comes at you with a pounding on the prosperous chest.
The Food and Drink
Don't get me wrong, I knew what I was getting into going to MPW as a vegetarian, their steakhouse branding is inherent, but I also know how important it is for a venue to shine amongst all dining veins, so we wanted to see what their vegetarian and seafood offering had to offer.
Kicking off with a few humble yet hearty starters, it's clear that MPW is overt with portion sizes and an emphasis on classic and relatable flavours. Tucking into the camembert with vine tomatoes and sourdough (£9.50) , this dish was both energising and rich with clearly plump, fresh produce, yet large enough for us to share thanks to the double sourdough dealing. I was desperate to try a fish dish and pasta dish due to an off-route look at the menu, so next up was the tomato gnocchi with parmesan alongside an Indian teaser in the shape of their fair and fish curry. While the gnocchi was hearty, level in size and produced a great Italian air with a tomato sauce to be proud of, the curry itself was warm, subtle and didn't overpower the selection of salmon and fish with spices, laying it gently next to a pert basmati rice, both showing that MPW can lend its hand to a multitude to dishes and cultures. The only let down? The dessert. Unfortunately dry and lacking a punchy vanilla ice cream on top, our warm chocolate brownie lacked attitude and sweet reliability.
In terms of the drinks selection, MPW clearly understand every iota of pairings and classic flavours. Not only did we have a humble, and sweet white served with our mains that complimented both a heavy Italian dish and fresh curry, the cocktail menu shows one premise and one premise only: MPW needn't show off, they establish themselves as a bar that can create the classics time and time again with no bashfulness. For hardened whisky drinkers, the Burns Aperitif (£8.95) has to be your go to. For me it had an Old Fashioned air with less brash whisky (Johnnie Walker) flame and more vermouth subtlety.
While the hotel itself was markedly packed with the gradual tide of guests flitting between lifts and happy hours, there's a completely different note to the restaurant itself. The ambiance is slow on purpose, this is dining with a caress rather than haste. Not only did the candlelight make for a romantic mood that clearly wasn't lost on every couple (of which there were plenty) in the venue, MPW clearly gave families an excuse to hunker down and chat over glasses of wine rather that woof and walk out.
Marco Pierre White Islington may be a restaurant that defines itself on steakhouse values, but there's a luxe atmosphere and roster of alternative plates that consistently throw the venue into the fine dining limelight. While the dessert let itself, but not the meal down, the attentiveness of staff, knowledge of wine and value for money is incontestable.